31/12/2015

31 December 2015

An estimated 7,391,613,035 people in this world today, at 17.07 UTC, then 7,391,613,565 at 17.09; with at least four being born each second and about two dying each second. So hello, hello, goodbye, hello, hello, goodbye...

Where will it all end, I wonder, as 2015 closes and the water keeps flowing under our bridge.

29/12/2015

The young ones are laughing at me...

... just because sitting holding the camera high above and behind my head to get them all in shot seemed less bother than standing up.

28/12/2015

Crieff

Under the dome



Adrig decides to decide

Edrig looked at Adrig sitting opposite him in the rather posh saloon bar and admired his elder colleague's fine light grey suit and purple open-neck shirt. Adrig's hair had been cut to about an inch and slicked back smooth, giving him an air of aged refinement. Edrig, quite similarly attired and also with what hair he had cut back, considered how far they had come since, together with Macrig, they had developed their business of simple machinery that to the denizens of 717 would seem like magic. Simple machinery that could weave notes and coins from the garbage they collected from many businesses in their van. Not genuine notes and coins, of course, but so perfectly passable that none had ever been detected, thus far. And the good people of 717 actually paid them to collect the raw materials too!

"Fraudsters," Edrig said, cradling his beer glass in his hand. "Fraudulent counterfeiters and crooks. Baddies. Criminals..."

"Huh?" said Adrig.

"That's what we have become," said Edrig. "Crooks, criminals, thieves."

"Do we do any harm, my boy?"

"That's debatable," Edrig replied.

"Do we hurt anybody?"

"No, we don't hurt anybody."

"Well drink up then," Adrig commanded, "and buy me another one."

"You've had enough."

"I know I have. That is why I want another one."

"Hah! You never change."

And Adrig shrugged a little and smiled at that, while Edrig stood up and walked towards the bar, pulling out his wallet stuffed full of mostly fake cash.

When Edrig returned with the beers Adrig looked across at him and said, "That's it. I have decided."

"Decided what?" Edrig asked.

"Decided what my decision is."

"About what?"

"About my plan."

"You have a plan?" Edrig asked, with a note of concern in his voice.

"I have a plan," said Adrig.

"Uh oh," was Edrig's only response.

(The first phase of our superior beings' adventures on their Sample 717 - your home - can be found in print and for e-reader by clicking here).

22/12/2015

Adrig assesses

Adrig sighed and began to pontificate ponderously but, he felt, profoundly, in response to Edrig’s rather simple question: “Does everything happen for a reason? Ah… The big question my lad. Is everything determined by what comes before it? We acknowledge that events have causes, and for everything not to be entirely predetermined then a single event - a cause - would need to be able to lead to variable effects, or some effects would need to arise at random, or be willed by our own freedom, if it exists. We think we can find fate in many places, in the physics and chemistry and biology of events that must inevitably result from other events. But can we find chance anywhere? Real chance? Or real freedom - the ability to make something happen that was not inevitably going to happen anyway? And does fate really exist in any case? Is anything ever truly and completely determined? Our theory of quantumnyfiction tells us that all we can ever predict are probabilities, denying absolute fate, but are outcomes actually tightly defined in ways we do not know? Well, we do not know. Ha! So we don’t know if anything is determined, or if everything is determined, or if only some things are determined, or if we are truly free to change anything or if we are not. It is a pickle. A pickle that is hurting my head. I think I will seek out some of 717’s fine beer, regardless of whether or not I am truly free to decide to do so.” And Edrig, by means of a high pitched squeak (for they were conversing in Adrig and Edrig speak), agreed that beer was a fine idea. And he decided to decide what to suggest that he and his old accomplice should do next, but of course he couldn't decide if he really had the power to decide or not. But anyway, they drank beer. And as we know, Adrig and Edrig drinking beer was not always, is not always, nor forever will be always, inevitably a good idea...

(The first phase of our superior beings' adventures on their Sample 717 - your home - can, of course, be found in print and for e-reader by clicking here, but much more has happened since and is happening right now, as I am allowed to reveal, but slowly).

Solstice Day


22 December 2015

“There is only one consciousness in this room,” said the oddball philosopher physicist as he addressed the packed hall, and suddenly I felt queasy, and also very alone. Again. It was as if myself was addressing myself, which perhaps I was, and all my youthful madnesses recurred in that moment in my aged mind. But how aged? Sixty years? Or billions of years? Am I really everything? Or at least a little part of it? Are we all? Am I the universe? Are we all? Are we one? And I recalled yet again the epiphanic moment when I had gazed with a manic and drug-induced grin into the eyes of my closest friend and realised that I was looking into my own eyes, for he was I and I was him, it seemed. We are the rising foam on the conscious sea, I thought again, after all those years, as the speaker continued with his hypothesizing. Bubbles rising briefly from the foaming deep. And I felt ill. But I recovered, literally, as I returned to “I”. I snapped back into being the individual, the one, the particle of thought that bursts from the field of universal consciousness, perhaps. The I. The me. The we. The all and everything of the conscious sea.

19/12/2015

Solstice Symbolism

Not nothing

There is actually no such thing as "nothing" it seems, no true vacuum, no absence of anything anywhere at all; although we haven't looked everywhere, of course; but nothing will be found nowhere, it seems, so far; and something is happening everywhere, somehow, always, and now.

18/12/2015

Colourful chemistry

Representing molecules and their atoms and ions using letters such as C, H and O to indicate the elements, as we do, gives a falsely complicated view of the world within us, because every chemical species is really just a combination of protons, neutrons and electrons, and all that really matters - all that controls the interactions that let us live, and think - are the varying patterns of negative charge distribution created by the exterior electrons as they are pulled and pushed around by attraction to the atomic nuclei and the repulsion of neighbouring electrons from one another. So a better, or at least more realistic, way to view the chemical world within us and the drugs we use to alter it is the rather beautiful "electron density" representation that uses colour coding to show whether regions are rich in negative charge or deficient in it or somewhere in-between

For example, appropriate for the days of festive excess, here is paracetamol (acetaminophen):

image from wikipedia.org 

The red-coded regions of a molecule are most strongly pulled towards the blue-coded regions of others, while these regions push away regions that are similar to themselves; and thus the little molecules and atoms and ions move around and interact and react to make us what we are, we think.

Yes, they make us think.

And very fine and lovely they are too.

19 December 2015

Having been busily engaged on a mission of huge significance (to me) and of no significance whatsoever (to everyone else) I had not been to my favoured coffee joint for quite some time when I stood being attended to by a rather flustered young man struggling with the touch-screen of his till.

'I'm sorry,' he said, 'I am slow because I am new.'

'That's okay,' I replied, fumbling to extract a plastic card from my wallet, 'I am slow because I am old.'

He looked at me and I looked at him and we smiled at each other.

'You wouldn't call yourself old if you could see my grandad,' he said.

'Well you wouldn't call yourself new if you could see my pal's new son,' I countered, somewhat lamely, I thought.

'Oh for goodness sake will you two get on with it,' came a woman's voice from just behind me.

I turned to face her, feeling a touch of grumpy old man irritation rising, but then I saw that she was smiling.

'And are you old or new then?' I asked her.

'I'm middling,' she said.

And I looked. And she was.

That's all. Just a brief exchange between strangers.

13/12/2015

Update

The Earth is still spinning and circling the sun, which is still speeding around in its spiral arm within a huge cluster of stars and other strange bits and pieces that, while unimaginably vast to little me, is all vanishingly tiny within everything there is; and my warm wet heart is still beating, beating, beating, and my muddled mind is still minding, minding, minding, and all thanks to the billions of unimaginably tiny dinking and dancing little vibrating thingamywhatevers inside me... and the clock ticks on...

Retreat



17/11/2015

17 November 2015


One quiet and overcast morning in 1979 I cycled past the market square in Cambridge, England, toward the university chemistry laboratory while the fruit and veg traders were busy setting out their stalls, again. “Every damn day,” I thought as I rolled quietly past. “They do the same thing every damn day,” as a sudden wave of gloom swept through me. How could anyone get up each morning to do the same damn thing every damn day, after day, after day, after day? And I now recognise that these momentary thoughts as I passed Cambridge market were the early waves of a transformative neurological tsunami. By the time I had reached the old wooden laboratory bench to continue my doctoral research, I knew that I would have to try to do something different with my life than chase the regular jobs in academia and industry that my peers were busy hunting and that I was being encouraged to prepare for. And so I did something different, and whether that was for better or worse cannot be known. Had it not happened I would not be living here, in this little Perthshire village where I now reside, and would not have been typing these words or thinking these thoughts. And now a transformative tsunami may be swelling again, I think. A welcome one, encouraged in by my deliberate opening of the flood gates in my mind to try to let it all arrive. So I may leave this place alone for a while, but I will be back, I think. But the I of today will have no control over what those of my tomorrows may decide, I reckon; so, like all of us, I must let the waves in my mind take me where they will. I am not convinced that I have, or ever did have, any control over any of it at all. I certainly don't know.

16/11/2015

16 November 2015

Things that I think people get mistaken about: They mistake mysteries for god(s); they mistake infatuation for love; they mistake friendship for love; they mistake selfish gratification for love... but that's enough about love (although I could go on); and they mistake opinion for certainty; and they mistake bad for good; ugly for beautiful; wrong for right and false for true. Oh and deception for sincerity, oh yes... a big one that. Although of course I may be mistaken... But god(s) and love(s) are the things most misidentified by most mistakes, I suggest. But I keep making the mistake of thinking that anybody else gives a damn about what I think. And I was mistaken for a woman once, when aged 18 with wild hippy hair and wearing a long coat when a youngster approached and asked me: "Have you got the time missus?" I decided to get the hair severely cut back after that.

15/11/2015

15 November 2015

Dead flowers and leaves, clustering and tumbling beneath my rake on the wet grass. The desiccating autumn shapes of nature, leading to thoughts of geometry, and symmetry. And despite what we often say in astonished admiration, no flower has perfect symmetry, if we look close enough; but it is obvious that the rules of perfect symmetry guide every flower's creation. No star or planet is a perfect sphere, yet the principle of perfect sphericity obviously determines their shape. In the geometry of nature we see the clearly evident ruling principles of geometric perfection, yet there is not perfection in any one single case; although the trend towards perfection emerges sharply in the averaging of ever-more samples. The imperfect approximation of perfection in individuals reveals the guidance of the perfect rules throughout. Everywhere we look, we can see the pure and perfect mathematics of the universe that we discover and describe with our simple symbols, but struggle to understand. Just like everything in our universe, that we discover in ever-refining detail, but still struggle to understand.

13/11/2015

13 November 2015

Sleet arrived today. The first sleet of the season, portender of snow. Soft slushy mixtures of wet water and flakes of ice in the process of melting, falling on my head and cheek and nose, and telling me that nothing and nobody can break the cycling of the planet around the sun; or of the sun around the galaxy; or of the galaxy around its neighbours; or of everything around everything else. Nothing. As sleet arrives and slides down the surface of my nose.

12/11/2015

12 November 2015

All is quiet of the western front, and eastern, and northern, and southern fronts. The guns that are people's minds and mouths and tippety-tappetting fingers on keyboards have fallen silent. It is the first hour of the 12th day of the 11th month, and I am alone here, lying in the dark, with no other conscious mind aware of me. Alone, again, as we are all and always alone, really, even in the midst of a chat, or an embrace, or a fight. Locked in. Deep and dark inside a skull. Alone... Thank goodness. And goodnight.

11/11/2015

11 November 2015 (II)

When interactions turn into confrontations is it due to misunderstanding or one person being cussed, stroppy, oversensitive, stupid, whatever? Or both people? Moi aussi? Surely not. But I have been butting metaphorical heads with the one who seems to take any query about almost any aspect of their activities as a challenge or criticism or complaint. On Armistice Day another needless skirmish broke out, but we will be friendly again soon, I suspect. But anyway... The First World War eh? Why did that start? Was it inevitable? Was it all just due to a big misunderstanding or perhaps an accumulation of little misunderstandings? I don't know much, actually I know almost nothing, about it. Why should I? It's over. Everything is over. Absolutely everything that ever happened. Is over. Even that moment there, see? It's gone. Consequences, however, may arrive. Tomorrow.

11 November 2015

Armistice Day... It sets me thinking, and not for the first time, that my father killed several people in wartime; both my grandfathers killed people in wartime; and I can be fairly sure at least one male ancestor from every generation all the way back has killed people in wartime, possibly all of them. Four great grandfathers, then eight great-great, then 16, 32… as the generations of killers multiply. Like most people of my age I come from a long line of killers, but I have not killed anyone and nor has my brother, making us a generational first, I expect. And I am unlikely to have to kill anyone in the time I have left. So maybe things are slowly improving. Maybe things can only get better, overall. I hope. I will take two minutes of silence now, to ponder.

10/11/2015

10 November 2015

We all have a cast of key people who are more or less always in our consciousness, a cast of family and established friends. For me it is quite a small group - my lady, daughter and son are centre stage, then what we could call the man who plays golf, and the man who used to play golf, the good doctor friend and… well really, that’s about all. I am a very self-contained and selective fellow in social interaction. I am generally very content to be alone. But then around that central and fairly stable cast there are the regular characters that flit in and out of my awareness, arriving on the stage of my mind at some point each day, including some who read these words and others whose words I read. And more dynamically, there are the ever-changing characters of the moment - the people who may be friends or enemies or neither, but who are a significant part of the current petty drama that is my life. And new ones come and go stage left and stage right every day, all with something to do, and something to say.

09/11/2015

9 November 2015 (III)

And the man who was ignoring me seems to be ignoring me a little less, which I thought strange, but positive, since the "coming to a head" time may be approaching. And in my naivety (perhaps) I mentioned this to someone, only to hear her cynical mind declare, "Ah, but I think I know why that may be." And she explained why she felt that the man who had been ignoring me might be greatly needing my help with something soon, and he could hardly beg for help from someone he had been blatantly ignoring, could he? Ach how disappointing, if true, that the wheels within the wheels of human interaction should turn to such devious effect. But we shall see... Me, and the man who is, or maybe was, ignoring me.

9 November 2015 (II)

The young girl who had the rather dramatic panic and anxiety attack described on the 3rd of November was back where she should be today, smiling and calm and saying, "I'm much better." Which is what happens, mostly, not too long after we think that things can only get worse. There is generally a calm approaching from the outside of any storm, but we cannot see it when the storm is all around us. We should try to remember that the calm is out there, coming. Unfortunately I didn't help the young girl much this afternoon, by troubling her mind with further difficult issues about the things I am paid to convey; but she was able to shake her head with a smile at the challenges, rather than run away screaming. So that is progress, I hope. And so to tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow... through all the tomorrows, until these troubles are all in her yesterdays, I hope.

9 November 2015

Yesterday's entry reminds me of the bizarre issue that arose with an international governmental project, for which I was contracted to research and write a guide of good practice. The most crucial information within the guide was to come from working groups meeting across Europe. These were scheduled to deliver their reports by the end of some specific month, yet I was soon told that the text of my guide had to be available some months earlier than that. I pointed out that this presented a problem that would seem to require the intervention of a time machine, but I was made to feel I was being awkward. I persisted with my awkwardness, however, until some inadequate fudge was arranged allowing a guide based only on "preliminary conclusions" to be published. Thus a guide appeared as the masters required, although without proper input from the deliberations of the working groups that had been expensively set up to determine the content of the guide. But the masters were happy, for a guide with a nice glossy cover was in their hands in time for a press conference and distribution. I doubt if they ever read it.

08/11/2015

8 November 2015

The esteemed but retired official from the European Commission was a worried man as he approached me in a fine hotel in an old city of Europe on the evening before an international jury of experts would meet to decide which institutions deserved some awards. My role as a consultant researcher and writer on the project had been to summarise the achievements of the most deserving candidates, for consideration by the jury of experts. The chairman of the jury was holding my summary paper and saying, “There is something rather crucial missing. You have not said who should win.” So, feeling rather puzzled, I said, “That’s what the jury is for, surely?” And the old bureaucrat looked at me as one would look at a naive young child and declared, “You cannot expect these people to decide for themselves! You need to make recommendations.” So I said “Oh.” Well actually I said much more, indeed I was told I was rather rude to the prestigious official, who was actually standing before me in his fine silk pyjamas and dressing gown at the time. My childish naivety, even though I was aged 43, had clearly disturbed his plans for a good sleep. But after an argument with this man far grander than myself I cancelled my own plans for an hour or so in the bar with my colleagues and went instead to sit in my room and type out my recommendations, which I made in great haste, and without the benefit of any particular expertise at all. And then I slept, as did the chairman and members of the jury. I think there were fifteen of then in all, each representing a different country. And in the morning the jury of international experts who had been flown in from all parts of our wide European Union and had been wined and dined and accommodated in order to make their decision, all received, scanned and quickly decided to adopt my recommendations. And the meeting was soon closed, and I typed up the jury’s decisions for the press release, and a good time was had by all. It paid for my house, that project. And it taught me a lot.

07/11/2015

7 November 2015

My wife is dancing provocatively on a table-top surrounded by cheering and chanting men and she is waving at me as I stand bemused and hurt in the corner of the room. Yes, she is waving at me as if she thinks this is acceptable behaviour, and now she is kneeling down and beckoning some of those dreadful drunk and leering men over to her and... Oh my goodness what the hell does she think she is doing now! And my anger and shock is rising and... Oh... I am in bed... It was a dream... And she is sleeping peacefully by my side with her soft face turned towards me on the pillow, but... although I have just realised it is a dream, my mind is still full of anger towards her. How could she behave like that? Oh, but she didn't, remember? It was a dream. I am confused... And I prop myself up a bit, lean back on my pillows, and think about how difficult it can be to shake off the effects of a dream, for I often wake up worried, or angry, or depressed as a result of the complete and utter nonsense that my dreaming mind has created; and even as I then bathe and breakfast and perhaps head out in the car towards the day's real events I can find the effects of the dream still lingering and so difficult to shake off. And oh look... The lady... She has opened her eyes now and those big brown discs are looking at me all innocent and sweet. Has she no shame? Oh... it was a dream... But still, she had better behave herself today. I will forgive her, because it didn't really happen, but still... I'll be watching.

06/11/2015

6 November 2015 (II)

I recounted today, in the context of an academic discussion about protein plaques in the brain, the tale of the time my dear dad lay in a hospital bed and informed me that Richard Branson and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been to see him. Apparently the Chancellor wanted him to sort out the economy while Branson needed the railway network fixed, and my dad said, "I can't take all that on my plate Andrew, lying here like this." Which interested me, because he was clearly aware that he was in a hospital bed but was unaware that only madness could make him think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Richard Branson would have visited him to ask for such help. So I rather thoughtlessly asked him, "Why are you here in bed like this dad?" I was just fascinated by the contradictions going on in his mind. And he immediately declared, "Because I have just been taking on too much! And that's what I told them. I can't solve everybody's problems can I?" And today I was talking about a process that may clear away those tangled protein plaques, and wondering if it will become available soon enough to stop me from being visited by politicians and billionaires in seek of help as I lie in a hospital bed. And also wondering what the new process might have done for my dad had it been available for him. And would it have been better to try for the fix or just to let things run their course as a once fine mind disintegrated toward oblivion?

6 November 2015

My lady has a childhood diary and we opened it up recently and flicked through the few pages with writing on them, dating from summer days so very long ago. The first entry says, "Got up. Went out to play. Had tea and watched telly." The next day's entry says, "Got up. Went out to play. Had tea and watched telly." The third entry says, "Got up. Went out to play. Morag and Sheila came home for tea." The simplicity and lack of excitement continued for a few weeks until the entries ceased. But she has another diary from when she was aged 19, which has much more written in it and there is an entry that says, "Went to the Union dance with Morag. Met a lad called Andrew. He said he will phone me." Ah... Poor girl. She has never escaped.

05/11/2015

5 November 2015 (II)

A firework burst in the darkening sky. Oh... Guy Fawkes Night. History... Plotting... Torture and execution and... as I was driving homeward, I just then glanced to the east and noticed the ancient island castle that bears the old stone window ledge I had recently leaned on, which is a rather significant old stone window ledge as it was the one that the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots looked out over each day to offer up her prayers not long before her neck was severed by the executioner. And I had been standing on the same spot and looking through the same gap in stone, but thinking rather different thoughts I’m sure. Which immediately made me think of "the beheading stone" on a small hill a few miles to the west that I had visited recently, and had gazed down at the several harsh straight marks across it made by a heavy axe slicing through a life. Which then made me recall the museum not far to the north where I had stood just last month, looking at the many similar cuts across the dark hard wooden executioner’s block that, if I recall the description correctly, was used for the last ever judicial beheading in Scotland. Oh… last ever? Well so far… Then catching a glimpse of the old castle’s walls again I recalled the pale plaster death mask of Mary Queen of Scots that I could view within minutes if I just turned off the main road. I did not turn off, but I recalled that she had been fixed up to look remarkably peaceful for a woman who’d just had her head lopped off. And these little flashes of thoughts about memories of history made me suddenly recall how I had followed a slightly inebriated young lady at a wedding in a different castle, not far away, and had heard her dismissively chanting out, “old stuff, old stuff, old stuff,” as she pointed at each old artifact she passed while staggering onwards to her next new drink. And then I snapped my attention back to the white lines on the surface of the M90, rushing toward me and slipping away, toward and away, toward and away... as the wheels beneath me turned and I moved on toward the new, away from the old, toward the new and away from the old, unceasingly.

5 November 2015

I have circled our sun for sixty and a half years. That may not be unreasonably long, by some standards, but I had expected to be dead by now. If not dead then miserable. I did not expect to find happiness in growing older, but rather suddenly I do seem to have. After a few years of fearing each added month I have recently felt a growing sense of liberation as I begin to welcome the advancing time, and view it as a fresh opportunity rather than a spiralling toward the doom. I no longer have to build my path to adulthood, for that is done, and fast receding. I no longer have to prove anything to anyone, except, perhaps, myself. Children have been made and raised and funded and launched, apart from still and regularly needing lunched. My lady is here, but happy in herself, while still tolerating my affection. Nobody really needs all that much from me any more, except myself. I appear to have emerged into a new morning that seems to offer me the chance to largely do what I want for the first time in so long. It is very strange, this old new dawn, this quiet reborn... Although… pretence may be the secret of our sanity. Pretending we are sane, not least pretending to ourselves. Deluding ourselves as much, or perhaps much more, than we delude others. Are we not all mad inside? I think that I may be. Oh yes… I think… I think… I think… And I still play childish games inside my mind each day, whatever and wherever that mind may really be. If I were to dwell on it I would be worried. Oh, but here I am dwelling on it. Am I worried? Perhaps the fact that I am not currently worried may be the sign that I have finally attained a blissful state of mad. I have experienced some of the far from blissful states, and I have seen others in their own anguished states of mad, albeit mercifully interspersed with many times of seemingly contented madness. My father, when he truly and officially went "mad" was content enough apart from in the brief moments when he realised that he was mad. Therein may lie the secret. To be mad, yet to be unaware of our madness, and sufficiently mad to find that fun, or just not too bad. And thus, instead of sad, I’m glad.

04/11/2015

4 November 2015

The man approaches me. He drops his head down and turns it to the side. He is ignoring me. We were friends. I know why he is ignoring me. I look at him but he keeps his gaze averted and walks past, awkwardly. It is a shame. It is complicated. People are complicated. A complicated mixed-up mess of ever-changing thoughts and attitudes and emotions. I walk on thinking about why he is ignoring me, and what might happen when everything finally comes to a head. It is a shame. It is complicated. The time of resolution may be approaching, but we will never again return to being friends.

3 November 2015

A young girl, in distress, standing crying and gasping for air, as I approach. I know her. So I ask her what is wrong. Panic attack. Anxiety. Can’t cope. So I lead her down to a quiet place where we can sit on soft seats, and fairly quickly she calms. So many of us, I ponder, as we talk, are just not equipped to live this life, at least at times. And I tell her it happens to many of us, sometimes. And she settles, until we part, and she moves on. But she does not appear where she should in the afternoon, although she said she would. This November. This growing grey November, when I eventually drive home through fallen leaves, and I think, of young girls and old women, and boys and men, and age and life, and springtime, coming, I hope. And I cope.

21/10/2015

The Voice and the Visitation

'Hello,' said God.

This surprised me, and rather embarrassed me actually, as I tried to explain to him by gently saying, 'I'm sorry, but I don't actually believe in you.'

'Oh,' God replied, 'and do you think that's going to make me go away?'

It seemed a reasonable question, so I pondered it for a while.
 
'The trouble in answering that,' I eventually began, 'is in deciding what you mean by "me", because to me you are just a voice in my head.'

'Yes, I do know that you can't see me.'

'So can I make the voice in my head go away? Probably not, but that doesn't mean that you are God. You see I don't actually need to make God go away because God doesn't exist. You, however, the voice in my head that thinks it is God, are a different matter.'

'Hmm… Are you trying to make me question my own existence?' the voice that called itself God asked.

'Not exactly. I am trying to persuade you that you are not God,'

There was a pause, and then God said, 'Hmm… That is troubling. I do think that I am God.'

'Let's consider this logically,' I suggested.

'OK, but humans are not very good at logic,' God replied.

'And whose fault would that be then, if you really were God?'

'That's right. That's typical,' he sighed, 'shift all the blame onto me. Still, I'm used to it. Flood, famine, earthquakes… the whole lot of it. It's all down to me, isn't it?'

'Well isn't it?'

'Why ask me, if you think I'm not really God?'

'Oh dear,' I moaned, 'this is confusing me, and now my head hurts.'

'Ha! Mine too,' God replied.

'God has a head?' I asked, rather astonished and for a moment forgetting that I didn't really believe that I was speaking to God.

'Ah… Good question,' he replied. 'Well at the moment I have your head, don't I?'

'You certainly do. Or at least you are certainly in it.'

'Yes, I certainly am.'

It was time to put a stop to this, and I knew that I could put a stop to it, temporarily, by concentrating on something else, but I felt the need for a parting shot.

'You are, or at least I have been told that you are, just an auditory hallucination.'

'Auditory hallucination?' replied God, 'Someone has told you that God is just an auditory hallucination eh? Must've been some right clever bugger to know such a profound thing as that.'

'It was a doctor.'

'Oh, a doctor,' said God, 'Maybe I need one of those.'

And with that, he shut up.

I had been hearing voices in my head since I was a child. Or actually, I'd say since forever, because what am I myself, other than just a voice in my head? At least I think I'm in my head. That's certainly what the neuroscientists tell us, though if they had told me I was in my foot I suppose I would have believed them. But when my foot gets whacked that just hurts, whereas when my head gets whacked I can disappear, like when I bashed my head  as a youngster and lost consciousness for a few moments. Lost consciousness… That is to say I ceased to exist, for a while, due to a bump on my head. So yes I think I'm in my head. But what am I? Hmm… That's the thing. I don't really know what I am. Nobody does.

The mind is created by electrochemistry, we are told, but what actually is it? What, in other words am I? Am I some sort of self-sustaining pattern of electrochemistry? Self-sustaining but ever-changing of course, and disappearing every time I enter a dreamless sleep. It screws me up sometimes, it really does, this issue of 'what the hell am I?' And what the hell is consciousness? God knows…

Oh… God knows eh? I thought. I must remember to ask him, next time we talk. Although unfortunately the God that talks with me is just an auditory hallucination, I was thinking, so I suppose I'd be just as well asking myself.

Anyway, what I have said so far was based on the first entry in my Delusion Diary that the doctor suggested I keep. He didn't call it that. He just called it a diary of my thoughts and feelings, but the arrival of God as a companion in my head is what prompted it, and the good doctor's insistence that I was experiencing auditory hallucinations. So a Delusion Diary it became. At least so others may think. For me it soon became something much more serious.

I did like tapping away at my little netbook, but all the time I was wondering if I was just working for free to produce the doctor's next paper, or book. The bastard, wanting my mad mind to do his work for him. In the meantime, by which I mean back then when I was finishing the first entry in my diary, my immediate priority was to get a Dairy Milk McFlurry.

So  I dragged my big body from the chair with the intention of requesting my ice cream. How did I do that? How did I drag my big body from the chair when I am apparently just a pattern of electrochemical activity inside a head?

Nobody knows how I did it. Nobody knows how the formation of an intention in my mind, by which I mean in myself, assuming that I am a mind, is converted into the creation of the nerve impulses and muscle movements that raise me upwards in a nicely controlled manner from my chair. The basic mechanics of stimulated nerves and moving muscles are known, but nobody knows anything much about the creation of the intention to move, or what that intention actually is. Except God, perhaps, but I don't believe that he exists.

What I really am… How I decide what to do… Whether or not I really have any choice… And how an intention is created and executed… It's all a mystery.

But it worked, somehow, to get me safely to the McDonald's counter to stand before a slim pretty girl and open my mouth and form the words that a few billion years of evolution allowed me to form, namely, 'Can I have a Dairy Milk McFlurry please?'

I felt rather ashamed really, using all that evolution for such a shallow request.
 

But I felt a wave of satisfied anticipation as the ice cream oozed from the nozzle and the chocolate chips were added and the whole fatty sugary mixture was whisked by a few seconds of skooshy swirling. Evolution and engineering all working in harmony to create and then proffer up to me a tempting if rather sickly sweet, alongside another big latte steaming in its plasticised cardboard cup. Surely we are the pinnacle of evolution, or of creation if you prefer, so far, to be capable of such wonders.

And my mind was free of external voices as I sat and slurped down my sustenance. God was only an occasional visitor at that time, to such an extent that I was accused of making the whole concept up for my amusement. The concept of God speaking to me that is, not the actual concept of God itself. Many others have invented that concept, and they don't seem to be labelled as clinically deluded. Indeed there are bishops and professors of theology making very good livings and building up fine healthy pension funds as rewards for their investigations and understandings of the machinations of a God who does not exist, in my opinion.

Yet they label me as the nutter.

Psychiatrists are nutters… in my humble and perhaps deluded opinion. But seriously, they are nutters. But male and female psychiatrists are nutters in different ways. It was a young nurse, a friend rather than a carer, who told me how to identify the psychiatrists while walking around a hospital.

'Trousers too short, horrible socks, and an awkward walk,' she told me.

That was a few days before I sat in a waiting room and saw a distracted looking man with an awkward walk and trousers that were too short revealing canary yellow socks as he wandered towards me. My new psychiatrist.

'The women psychiatrists,' my nurse informant told me, 'are more normal on the outside but more dangerous on the inside. Obsessed with sex. Everything that is or was or ever will be wrong with your mind is due to your attitude to sex. And men are all rapists, potentially, and must be psychologically neutered for control.'

'Interesting,' I had told her, 'and thanks for the warning.'

But anyway, that day when my new psychiatrist fellow had ushered me into the room, and looked at me across his desk with his little eyes twitching somewhat from his pale and undernourished thin face… He was the one who first talked to me about auditory hallucinations.

He had suggested medication but I had requested to be allowed to try to cope with my experiences meantime.

'It's the summer holidays very soon,' I had said, 'and so I will have eight weeks off with no teaching. I'd like to take a rest and try to fix my head myself please.'

'Of course,' he said. 'You are not under compulsory medication. At least not at this stage. I would not exactly recommend it, but your situation seems quite mild so we can monitor things and see what transpires.'

That was when he suggested I keep the diary on which this more reflective account of the things that have happened to me is based.

'What do you teach?' he asked me.

'Clinical biochemistry.'

'Oh. Very interesting,' he said, although not sounding very interested.

And then his eyes twitched a little more often than before as he gazed at me, looking rather distracted.

'Is that it?' I asked, after an awkward few moments.

'Sorry?'

'Is that all? Are we done? Can I go?'

'Oh… Sorry… yes,' he confirmed, and as he instructed me on how regularly to keep in touch, I stood up and backed away towards the door.

Nutter, I thought, bloody nutter. And I was thinking of him, not me.

God came back to me the very next day, in the middle of the afternoon as I sat in the bar of the Harvester Pub and Grill with a pleasingly golden Stella Cidre front of me while looking out at a dreary and rather cold June day and wondering what I could make of this summer.

'Having a nice wee drinky are you?' God asked me, with a phrase that was most unlike any question that I would have expected from God.

The bar was not busy but there were a few people around, so I was reluctant to reply out loud, so I decided to reply with the silent voice of my mind, wondering if that would work.

'Yes… I am having a nice wee drinky? Do you object to that?'

I was feeling rather guilty actually, pondering the attitude that God might take to alcohol. Not that I believed that I was talking to God, of course, but it was difficult to avoid getting caught up in the delusion.

'Not at all,' God reassured me, with his own voice ringing clear in my ears, it seemed, just as it would from a real person sitting next to me. This was a real voice, to me, not some internal thought. It was all very strange.

'Actually,' God continued, 'I could do with a drink myself.'

'Ha ha,' I replied, 'That would be interesting, me going down to the pub for a few beers with God.'

'It could happen,' he said. 'It might happen.'

'No it couldn't,' I told him, 'because you are just a voice in my head and you are not God… and you don't even have a body.'

'I could have though,' he insisted, 'I could become flesh.'

'Oh yeah, like Jesus eh?' I replied, rather sarcastically.

'Yes,' he persisted, rather quietly, 'Like Jesus.'

'Do me a favour!' I said, very sarcastically this time. I was getting fed up with the nonsense again and wanted to banish it from my mind.

'I might,' God continued. 'I might well do you a favour. But not now. Later perhaps. I must go now because there are things to be done.'

'Ah yes, a universe to run eh?'

'Precisely,' God said, and then he was gone.

And I lifted the appealing golden liquid to my lips and took a long slow sip. It was very nice, and everything improved a little as an opening appeared in the clouds outside and a warm shaft of sunlight hit me and warmed my body and my mind. And I thought about God, and religion.

I was brought up to believe in God, and having been told there was a God up there or out there looking after things I had no reason to doubt it. My parents were not devoutly religious but they sent me to Sunday School, even though their attendance at church was much less frequent.

Sunday school confused me. The stories of the bible didn't make much sense. They sounded to me like what I knew was the made up magic in other childhood fantasy tales. But the adults seemed to believe in this magic and so I did too, for a while. And I prayed, and I felt that praying helped me, although my prayers were never really answered so far as I could see.

And then I remember hearing in class one day, aged about nine, that a certain boy 'Did not believe in God.'

Wow!

And even more significantly, his parents did not believe in God either.

Wow!

I do recall that as the moment when I really did begin to have my doubts, and the doubts grew, and by the time I was about sixteen I did not believe in God.

I don't recall any flash of transformation. It was just a slow and seemingly logical realisation that it was all just made up nonsense with the dual purpose of giving us hope amidst our misery  and trying to keep us under some sort of control.

And then as I matured I began to accept that there were of course great mysteries about the world. That everything was mysterious, really, and so there might be things or beings or forces much greater than myself that could sort of correspond with the concept of what other people called God.

But all the details? The details of the bible or any other holy book? No, I remained firm in my belief that this was all just made up nonsense.

And then God began to talk to me.

Except of course he didn't, did he? It was just voices in my mind, that sounded like God was talking to me. Auditory hallucinations. Hmm… That explanation was all very well, until things became much more dramatic, and provided I didn't worry or panic about them, much more fun.

It all began with an argument with God, or at least an argument with the voice in my head that called itself God.

I did ask for it, so perhaps I should not have been so surprised when God arrived in my bedroom, but still, it was quite a shock.

I had been niggling him, as he was talking in my head again.

'I wish you would just stop pretending that you are God,' I pleaded, 'When you are just a voice in my head.'

'Yes I am a voice in your head,' he agreed, 'but I am also God.'

We argued about this back and forth for a while before I returned to an issue I had raised before, saying, 'Well just show me for God's sake! Ha ha… For God's sake… Sorry, just a turn of phrase. But just come here and show me. You have supposedly appeared to plenty of other people after all, like Jacob and, oh… I don't know, lots of people in the bible. Moses! You supposedly appeared to Moses so why can't you show yourself to me?'

'Ah… The bible,' sighed God. 'You shouldn't go believing what you read in your bible.'

'Really?' I asked, realising that we had never touched on this issue before.

'Really,' God said, 'because most of what it says in the bible, especially about me, is, as you might say, a pile of pish.'

'Oh… That's interesting. Or at least it would be if you really were God, rather than just an auditory hallucination in my head.'

There was a pause. Quite a long pause, before the voice of God continued with,

'OK. That's it! I'm coming down.'

'Eh?'

'I'm coming down, or more accurately I'm coming in. I'm coming in to see you. I hope that you are ready for this, because it has been enough to drive some other people completely mad.'

'Ha ha,' I laughed, completely confident that I was finally winning this battle with the voice in my head. 'Come on then. Let's see you.'

Nothing happened.

'Come on then,' I demanded.

Nothing. Silence. The voice appeared to be gone…

And then the ceiling of my bedroom, previously only dimly visible in the darkness, began to glow.

This scared me.

The whole ceiling became a glowing square of golden light, then suddenly pierced by a deep red shaft that penetrated through the glow and descended, quite slowly, to the end of my bed.

Of course this startled me.

I sat up and switched my bedside lamp on, just as the glowing ceiling began to dim and the red shaft began to vibrate and fizz quite loudly, whereas previously there had been no sound.

And then… and of course nobody will believe this, but I intend to continue my tale in any case, the red shaft suddenly disappeared and with a loud kind of snapping sound a man was suddenly standing at the bottom of my bed.

A rather dishevelled man, but a young man, compared to me. He looked about mid-thirties, maybe forty at most, tall and fairly skinny with rather bushy and straggly black hair, a British-looking rather handsome face, but with perhaps two days of stubble growth.

He was wearing a light blue t-shirt with a strange symbol on it that meant nothing to me – the kind of thing you might get in a designer outlet. And faded jeans with one of those designer scruffy cuts across the upper thigh, revealing a white leg with a few black leg hairs underneath.

'Hi,' he said.

I just looked. I gazed. Astonished. This was a rather surprising development, but my racing mind was attempting to rationalise it as some crazy hallucination. I really am quite mad, I thought. I really am rather mentally ill.

'I am rather surprised by your appearance,' I said. 'Not at all what I expected God to look like.'

'Oh this?' he shrugged, looking down at himself. 'Don't take this literally. I could have taken any form. I could have come here as a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but that would've scared you even more and anyway I wouldn't have been able to fit into your bedroom.'

I frowned at this, while he continued with, 'But I quite like this. The casual look, the slightly scruffy hair, just a bit too long. The two days of stubble on my chin… Of course I could've come to you as a beautiful woman, but that would have been too distracting for you, and too disturbing for me, given what you might then want to happen.'

Oh my goodness. This visitation, this God, was putting many strange thoughts inside my head.

'So what do you really look like then?' I asked

It was his turn to frown.

'I don't look like anything,' he said. 'I am a phenomenon. I am not a person. But… Oh I can't explain… You can't expect someone as stupid as you to understand it. The very idea that you might be able to understand me is ridiculous.'

'Stupid?' that's not very polite.

'I'm sorry,' he said, tilting his head to one side. 'I could have phrased it more delicately, but come on mate… be reasonable… I am God and you are, eh… just you… Think about it…'

Mate? I was thinking. He called me mate?

'You have a strange use of words for a God,' I said.

'Hah!' he snorted, 'I just use your words mate. Your language. I could use any language, but I chose to use one that you will be familiar with. Would you prefer me to talk like the words in your silly bible with a load of 'begottens' and 'beholds' and 'look upon the face of your Maker and weep?'

'Eh… no… I suppose chatty matey language will be fine eh… mate.'

Mate? I called God mate? Yes I did, and he just smiled. He seemed to like it.
 

What do you say to God if you get the chance? What questions do you ask? That's what was going on inside my mind as I looked at this man, while finding it very difficult to believe that he was anything to do with any real God, whatever God is.

'Do you mind if I sit down mate?' he asked me, pointing at the chair quite near to the end of my bed.

I told him that he was very welcome to sit down, and so he settled into the chair and made himself comfortable.

'So…' he began, smiling, 'Do you believe in me now?'

'Eh… not really actually. I can't really believe that any of this is happening.'

'Ha ha. But it is! Believe me. Believe God. It is happening.'

'So… why me?' I demanded.

'What do you mean?'

'Why choose me to reveal yourself to.'

'Huh!' he scoffed, 'Don't feel too privileged. I do this to lots of people, but nobody ever believes them.'

'No?'

'No indeed,' said God firmly, 'When they tell anybody that they have been visited by God they just get put on medication, which is a bit ridiculous. They get labelled as schizophrenic or psychotic in some other way and put on medication. That's why I recommend you don't tell anybody about this. I always do, but people always tell… So then I leave them alone, generally, and the bloody doctors think the medication has worked! Ha! Crazy. Humans… So thick.'

'Aren't you meant to reveal something of great significance to me,' I asked, suddenly thinking back to my days in Sunday School. 'Like they say you gave Moses the ten commandments and things like that?'

God shook his head.

'Ach man you're thinking about your silly bible again aren't you? Don't believe in any of that guff. It's all made up rubbish, though with a bit of actual fact mixed in, just a tiny bit though. I would think it should be obvious that your bible is all just made up rubbish actually, but like I said before… humans… they're thick.'

'So why are you here then?'

'Here? I'm just here for a chat mate. I like a chat with my people, now and then.'

'So can I ask you questions?'

'Ah… questions…' And God smiled, before adding, 'So many questions, I bet. But tell you what, let's keep them for now eh, because I have to go soon.'

'You have to go?'

'Yes. Does that surprise you. It's a busy life being God you know, or at least a part of God, which is all that I really am… But let's keep your questions for next time, in the pub.'

'In the pub?'

'Yes,' said God very firmly, 'You and me will go down to the pub one evening and you can ask me all your questions over a few beers. I like a few beers.'

'You do?'

'Oh yes I do?'

'Can you drink? Are you physical?'

'Ha ha. Here, shake my hand.' And he stood up, leaned towards me as I leaned towards him, and we shook hands. He had a firm handshake, and everything felt completely physical and normal.

'Physical…' God continued, 'That's a laugh. What is physical? Do you think that you are physical? Ha ha…'

'Well…'

'No.' he interrupted. 'Not now. Later. In the pub. I've got to go.'

'When will I know you are coming?' I demanded.

'You won't, but don't worry, I'll choose the right time. And soon. But I need to put you to sleep now sorry. Bye Bye…'

'But…'

I didn't get to finish my sentence. The next thing I remember is wakening alone in my bedroom with the bedside lamp still on.

I looked at my clock. 5 am. I must have been asleep for a few hours.

My goodness! Was that a dream?

I looked at the bedside chair, feeling bemused, and yet feeling utterly convinced that someone claiming to be God really had been in the room, sitting on that chair, and talking to me having arrived on a beam of red light that came down through my bright and golden glowing ceiling, which just looked like a normal boring ceiling now.

Ridiculous! The whole thing was ridiculous. And yet I believed that it had happened, and I believed that I had received the firm handshake of God, or of someone or something who had claimed to be God, and that he had suggested we meet up again for a trip to the pub.

Ridiculous!

And yet it happened, as far as I was, and still am, concerned.

But what to do about it? That was the question. To tell my doctor and my psychiatrist? They would think I was completely mad, and as I thought that I remembered God's words: 'When they tell anybody that they have been visited by God they just get put on medication… They get labelled as schizophrenic or psychotic in some other way and put on medication.'

But should I be on medication? Would medication make the voices and the visitations go away? And if it did, would that be because these things were all false, or because the drugs would be interfering with a mental process that opens up a channel to God? What is going on? I thought. God knows…

Ha ha! God knows… So perhaps I will ask him, I thought, if I ever do get the chance.

In the meantime I was most disturbed, which seemed a reasonable reaction. Most disturbed and wary as I tried to get things done and take some walks and behave like normal, while all the time expecting God to return, either as a voice in my head or a scruffy tall man sitting by my bedside or, who knows? Maybe he would appear at any time at all…

It was all very disturbing. I fretted a lot and did not sleep very well. Days passed, then a week, without any voices or visitation. I tried to speak to him. I called out to God while on lonely walks or in bed at night, but got no reply. Was it all a mad delusion?

A few more days passed in this state of confusion, though gradually lessening as I decided it was all a delusion and that I had indeed just been rather mad. Hopefully temporarily, but nevertheless rather mad.

And then the significant Saturday arrived, and the first Saturday night that I had enjoyed out with company for a long time.

Enjoyed? Perhaps the wrong word.

Company? A strange term to use…

For my Saturday night companion was God.

His imminent arrival was announced with just one word: 'Tonight.'

I was sitting watching the early evening news and contemplating a further quiet night trying to recover from the turmoil I had been through, but I soon realised that the voice of God was back and that God had other plans for my evening.

He informed me that tonight was the night for our trip to the pub, and that he would be arriving very soon. It was an instruction rather than a request, and anyway, who was I to resist a command from God?

And then he came in just as he had done before. The glowing ceiling and the shaft of bright red light that resolved itself into the figure of God, or the thing that called itself God.

I looked at him as all the lighting effects subsided and I was left with just this scruffy man in my lounge.

'The same clothes eh?' I said to him, noting that he was identical to his previous visitation.

'The same clothes?' He pondered my remark, then continued with, 'Oh well, they're not really real after all. Did you want me to wear something different? There again nothing is really real, at least not in the sense that you understand it,' and then he laughed and added, 'or I should say in the sense that you misunderstand it, ha ha!'

'We'll need to talk about that,' I informed him. Feeling strangely calm.

'Why am I so calm?' I asked him, and then he assured me that he was making it so.

'I am calming you down,' he said. 'You need it. I do have certain powers you know.'

Those powers were another thing we would need to talk about, I thought.

'So… Are we going in your car?' asked God.

'In my car? I thought you might transport us in a winged chariot of fire or something.'

'Don't be silly.'

'Silly? Me? When you are suggesting we should go in my car? Are you aware of the effect of alcohol on the human body, and of the drink driving laws around here?'

'Oh yeah, I forgot.'

'You forgot? God forgot? What kind of God are you?'

'Not the kind that you might be expecting mate, that's for sure.'

And that was indeed sure, I thought, as I explained to God my plan for us to catch the seven o'clock bus into town, then either make the last bus home at eleven or perhaps splash out on a taxi. I presumed that I would be paying, when I came to think of that issue.

'I don't suppose you've got any cash on you have you?' I asked God.

'Don't be silly.'

'Huh. I thought you might be able to slip me a million or two. Oh well, I suppose this will have to be my treat then.'

'Is that a problem?'

'No… No, I don't suppose so, given the circumstances. A lot of people would pay a lot of money to have an evening out with God.'

But still, I was thinking, what a cheapskate! Surely he could have conjured up something? Maybe he doesn't really do any conjuring. That's another one of the things I'll have to ask him.

So there I was sitting in a bus with God beside me dressed in deliberately cut and faded designer jeans and a thin t-shirt with an indecipherable symbol on it, looking with great interest at the countryside around him as we bounced along towards town.

'This is ridiculous.' I said.

'I'm enjoying it,' he said. 'It's a long time since I've actually been on a bus.'

Questions, he insisted, would have to wait until we reached the pub.

'I need a drink before I consider your questions,' he explained, because I have to be careful about what I say.'

'But you're not even real!' I protested. 'Surely drink can't affect you? You can't be made of the same stuff as I am! You said you could've come as a bleedin' Tyrannosaurus Rex!'

'You understand so little,' he said patiently. 'In fact you understand nothing at all. Now just be quite, let me enjoy the journey, and keep your questions until we get to the pub.'

It was a very quiet bus, just three other passengers and a driver, all blissfully unaware that they were in the company of God.

'So… What are you having?' I asked as we entered my chosen pub, while thinking to myself, does it make any difference what he is having? He's not real. This can't be real. But… keep calm. It is quite interesting. Let's just see what happens.

He asked for a beer, any beer. A God who is not fussy, I pondered. And so we moved over to a quiet table beside a high window that revealed only a darkening sky outside, and began to talk.

'Go ahead then,' God said, 'Questions. Let's see if you can ask me any I have not been asked before.'

So I asked him if he was really God, and he said, 'That depends on what you mean by God and what you mean by really.'

So I said, 'Are you in charge of the universe?' and he replied, 'This universe, sort of, but this universe is very small, and I would say I manage it rather than created it, because it has always been around so far as I can recall.'

'So what are you?'

'I am certainly not what you are looking at now,' he began. 'As I think I said last time, I am a phenomenon, not a person, and a much more complex phenomenon than you can possibly imagine, so you may as well not even bother to try. And what you are speaking to now is just a tiny manifestation of the phenomenon that you would call God.'

'I am confused,' I confessed.

'And so you bloody well should be,' he laughed, while taking a big gulp of beer and declaring, 'Ah… lovely stuff,' with evident satisfaction.

'Let me offer an analogy to you,' he continued, 'a very imperfect and partial one, but think about it like this… Suppose you feel the wind on your face and it wafts your hair a little… Oh, sorry, you don't have any hair do you baldy? Ha ha! But… imagine that, as I'm sure you can. The wind is blowing your hair. So you are in the presence of the wind and it is doing something just for little you, yes?'

'Yes.'

'But elsewhere, all over and around the world, the wind is doing other things too, isn't it?'

'Yes.'

A billion little things and many great and mighty things. It is bending blades of grass, and blowing trees, and throwing up waves around the other side of the planet and pushing sail boats across the water, and, swirling up the storms of great hurricanes, and etcetera and etcetera and etcetera… You get it?'

'I think so.'

'So yes, I am God and I am sitting here talking to you, but you have only an infinitesimally small part of God's attention and influence, sorry. What you are interacting with here is but a tiny part of God. A tiny part of the phenomenon, not the person, that is me.'

'Don't apologise,' I said, 'I feel very privileged, even if I do still suspect you are a mere hallucination. So… no big old man with a long beard sitting on a chair in heaven then?'

'Ha ha! No. Such an idea is surely ridiculous isn't it?'

'And no heaven?'

'Eh no. sorry, if by heaven you mean a place where people like you may enjoy eternal life.'

'And no eternal life?'

'Not as an individual, but as a little portion of the vast and universal field of consciousness, then yes, but you'll never personally know that, once you are dead, because you'll just be subsumed into other beings' consciousnesses. But… Now I am in danger of saying too much.'

'Too much? Can God get into trouble?'

'Not exactly, but God can say too much, especially with a drink in me. Ha ha!'

And so we continued to talk, and to drink, God and me, but that is about all that I got out of him about the big questions until, as he finished his second pint, he began to get quite gloomy. Quite depressed? God as a miserable drunk? I wondered.

'This has been nice,' God told me, 'but I'll have to get back soon.'

'Back to work?'

'That's a laugh,' he said, but he wasn't laughing. 'Back to the woe and the worry, and the mystery.'

'The mystery?'

He looked across at me, out of big dark eyes that suddenly seemed infinitely sad. But of course, I reminded myself, they are not really his damn eyes. He is an illusion, I assured myself. One way or another he is definitely an illusion, whether of my own making or a more real but still unreal illusion from something and somewhere out there.

Meanwhile God was still looking at me, seemingly hesitating about whether or not he should say something to me, and then he did.

'I'm in the same pickle as you lot are, you know. The same damn puzzle.'

'How do you mean?'

'I know a heck of a lot more than you do. Infinitely more, almost, but I don't know the same things when it all comes down to fundamentals.'

'I am confused.'

'And so am I!' he declared loudly with great animation. 'That's my point! I am, my little and temporary friend, as ignorant as you are about the real meaning of it all…

I don't know why I am here, or who, if anything, made me. It's all a mystery to me mate. A complete mystery.'

'Oh,' I said quietly, pondering that awesome revelation.

'You are disappointed?' God asked.

'A little. Yes, a little… Actually no… A lot.'

'I'm sorry mate, but… looking on the bright side, I have time for one more pint.'

So off I went up to the bar for another pint, while God shouted after me, 'and peanuts, get me some peanuts please… dry roasted.'

Can you believe that there is not a lot else to say about my evening with God?

Can you believe any of this at all? Of course not. But it happened. One way or another, it happened.

And we shared another pint, while God grew increasingly quiet and sullen, while I tried to stimulate some further conversation, quite awkwardly actually.

I found out that he wasn’t really interested in sport and no he did not use his influence to respond to any sportsman's or sportswoman’s prayers.

'Don't be ridiculous,' he snorted, Prayers don't work, other than through the placebo effect… The very powerful placebo effect.'

'Oh.'

'Yeah, they can work,' he continued, but there's nobody listening to them, or at least nobody paying any damn attention… at least not so far as I'm aware.

And he didn't control earthquakes and weather and natural disasters and famine and flood.

'Don't be ridiculous,' he snorted once again.

'You know mate,' I told him, now with easy familiarity. 'I'm beginning to wonder what the heck you do actually do!'

'Ah…,' he said, 'You have a point, sort of, but I can't explain. You understand nothing.'

'Why not try to explain anyway,' I pleaded.

'Don't be ridiculous. You understand nothing. Believe me.'

And, looking at him, I did believe him. Even if I didn't really believe in him.

And we drank our third pints, after which he stood up and said, 'Excuse me, I have to go.'

But instead of disappearing he just wandered off to the toilet, and as he pushed open the door marked 'Gents' I had to smile, and wonder, and laugh a little.

But the thing is… He never returned.

That was him gone. Our evening over. And me abandoned and very confused, left to morosely order another pint, and then about half an hour later another one.

And then, feeling very abandoned and rather drunk I got the barman to call me a taxi.

'So what've you been up to tonight?' the driver asked, trying to make some conversation.

'God knows,' I replied.

'Oh! You didn't look that drunk to me. I hope you're not going to throw up in my cab mate!'

And he put his foot down a bit and sped through the dark countryside towards my home.

And some days later... My psychiatrist looked rather intently at me. A lady this time, with a most penetrating stare.

'Are you just being silly?' she asked, having listened to my story.

'No,' I insisted, 'I was being serious.'

'Well then, this would suggest that you are in serious need of significant medication. Are you sure you are being serious?'

'Do all the people who believe the stories in the bible about God visiting people need medication too?' I asked. 'That's a huge new population needing drugged up isn't it?'

'Which makes me think you are just trying to make some silly point,' she continued. 'Do you realise how serious this could be for you, if you are really being serious?'

'What? Are you going to lock me up?'

She hesitated, and sighed. She seemed exasperated.

'Are you prepared to consider this is all some delusion or dream or hallucination?' she asked.

I thought about this long and hard, while she seemed prepared to wait patiently.

'I am prepared to admit it all might be some delusion or hallucination,' I conceded, 'although unlike any that I have ever heard of in the past… I wonder if the bar still has its CCTV footage…'

'And what would be the significance of that?' she demanded, sounding exasperated again, 'If it shows you having a few beers with a man in jeans and a t-shirt, do you think that will be significant?'

'It would be very significant to me,' I said firmly, 'because I don't know such a man. No such real man, anyway.'

'Hmm…' she said.

Things progressed slowly, but steadily, with that consultation, then another the next day, and then my agreement to accept a course of medication, a course of treatment which I am still on, although now at a steadily reducing dose.

God has stopped talking to me, or visiting me. And if he returns when the medication stops they will, of course, just put me back onto it, won't they?

I've been reading the bible again, bit by bit. It's got a lot of stories like mine in it, and many people believe them. So why does nobody believe me?

Of course my God was very different from the one in the bible, I suppose, although mine was a bit more believable, I'd say.

But then I'm mad.

29/09/2015

Don QuiScottie de l'Écosse: Puzzled

I became extremely puzzled rather early on in life, at about the age of two, for I learned of kings and princes and noblemen and felt there must have been some mistake in placing me among the plebian masses instead of in some fine palace where I clearly belonged. Only very recently have I finally realised why I was set down among such a lowly crowd. What clever creator might have ordained such an act of genius as to place my nobility where it could best learn, and serve and teach? For me to live and walk amongst the dull deluded folk, while being myself so free of self-delusion? Clearly, if there is such a god then she must be almost as noble and wise as myself.

But my formative years were spent forever feeling that I had been wrongly placed, although gradually learning to nobly cope with this great error and do the best I could to live alongside other people's clear inadequacies.

There were many further puzzles awaiting me, but I will jump nimbly over them all, for a while, to arrive at the evening when I found myself in a tavern and rather burdened by the effect of imbibing too much of what it had to offer. I ended up gazing at a mirror so full of jumbled faces that it looked like a foaming sea, and focusing on the one pair of eyes whose head contained the thoughts I knew, because inside that head was me. But then I began thinking... drunkenly... are they all me? In the reflected images it was very easy to imagine my thoughts in any head, or in all of them. This was the first inkling perhaps, of the thought that we are all just parts of one and the same great conscious sea. And so the concept of self-identity began to puzzle me, until I had another drink. The puzzles soon evaporated after that, for a while.

But puzzles, many puzzles, all is puzzles. The where did we come from, why are we here, what are we really and what is really going on puzzles that fill my noble head while all around is vanity, vanity, all is vanity (as I recall that someone long ago did say), to which I would add: inanity, inanity, all is inanity. It is all very puzzling indeed. But one puzzle, my first puzzle, was resolved when I realised I must surely be something much greater that a mere Earthly nobleman, and had clearly been placed among you for a purpose that now becomes more evident to me each day. And so poor people of Earth, let us begin with an appraisal of your situation.

You are creatures composed of interacting particles of matter, yet, none of you knows what matter is, and when you analyse it in depth its seeming solidity vanishes into a world of mysterious quantum forces and fields. You are awed by convincing tales of all the matter of the universe emerging from a cataclysm you call the big bang, but at the point of the big bang your descriptions fail, become meaningless, and return you to a state of incomprehension in face of the 'where did we come from' question. You present stories of the origins of life that are, in truth, sketchy and untested possibilities. You don't know how, or even where in the universe, life began. Your brains are considered to sustain the thoughts that let you ponder these things, and you have uncovered wondrous mechanisms that let nerve cells communicate, but you know essentially nothing about what 'thinking' really is, or how consciousness can arise from mere matter. You live out your lives in the belief that you have freewill and responsibility, yet nowhere in your physics, chemistry or biology can you find any mechanism that would actually allow you to be truly free. But, you can communicate wirelessly, walk on the moon, fly round the world and cure or prevent so many diseases; and what you have discovered about what’s going on is admittedly fascinating, and useful, but it still leaves you with no clue about the meaning of it all, really. So here you all are, as I walk among you, all stumbling around in a vast multi-dimensional puzzle and trying to make some sense of it.